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Closure by Sarah Harris (HarperCollins, £5.99, 419pp)

Closure by Sarah Harris (HarperCollins, £5.99, 419pp)

A former producer on Newsnight, Sarah Harris published a first novel, Wasting Time, about the pitfalls of a media career. Everyone read it to see if she would give us the low-down on Paxo. Her second covers similar territory, but with less pizzazz. Its heroine, 31-year-old Anna Potter, works as sidekick to an on-air agony aunt. Like Roz in Frasier, she mans the show's phone lines and acts as emotional ballast in a studio of neurotic prima donnas. Unlike Roz, however, she's as much an addict of self-help gurus as the lost souls calling in to the show. Single, with low self-esteem, Anna falls prey to the charms of guest psychologist, Sean Harrison. Fortyish and groovy, with only the Ford missing from his name, he convinces Anna that real life - a flat in Notting Hill, a boyfriend like him, and a career in acting - will only begin when she cuts the dead wood out of her life; ie confronts her mother, best girlfriends and chemistry-teacher boyfriend about their various inadequacies, and dumps them pronto.

A little tenuous as far as its plot goes - will Anna realise her mistake in time? - Closure diverts us en route with waspish observations on thirty-ish single life, from the anthropological attributes of "Anti-Dream Man", to the ubiquity of the ironic hair clip. While Anna is a cut above most of the other Jemimas out there competing for space in our beach bags, her sense of self-worth is equal to the most irritating of them. It's a given that for Dr Sean to end up in our heroine's bed would be as discombobulating as Harrison Ford walking into a Mike Leigh film set. EH

An Anatomy of Thought by Ian Glynn (Phoenix, £8.99, 532pp)

For its erudition and readability, this work scores over other popularisations of science. Appropriately for a book on the mind, it contains twice as many references to Austen as to Dawkins. This Cook's Tour of the brain glitters with revelations. Did you know the pineal gland is a vestigial third eye? Or that synaesthesia can be triggered by drugs? But Glynn admits that an explanation of consciousness is elusive.

Basil Street Blues by Michael Holroyd (Abacus, £7.99, 309pp)

The master of the epic biography has pulled off an equal feat on a personal canvas. Focusing on the fractured liaison between his uneasy father and Swedish mother, Holroyd's narrative looks backward at his family tree of aristocrats, suicides and cranky businessmen, and forward to his days at prep school and imprisonment in the Tower of London as a national serviceman. Funny and poignant, this is a superb portrait of the middle class in decline.

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